Even with the best of games, there's always a feature to be added, something on which to improve.
Rare is a game like Real Racing 2 where not one major feature is lacking, not one element is out of balance, not one piece doesn't contribute to a sense of fun.
From the lengthy career and groundbreaking 16-player online races to the spot-on handling and meaningful vehicle tuning, everything about Firemint's sequel is ideal. No other racing game on any portable device delivers such a complete package, nor matches its elegant style.
Both hands on the wheel
As with all racing games, the excellence begins with the handling. The sense of speed and weight of each car is clear - a noticeable improvement over the original.
Real Racing 2 maintains a fine balance between accuracy and accessibility, ensuring that you feel the difference between the game's 29 licensed vehicles without being overwhelmed by rigid simulation mechanics.
While Real Racing 2 is not exacting in its approach, skill is essential for success. Drifting through turns, for example, is discouraged because it reduces your vehicle's speed.
This means easing acceleration into a turn, perhaps tapping the brakes to maintain trajectory, and then speeding up as you pass through the apex. Since each car handles differently, learning how to do this with a 2010 BMW M3 GT2 versus a 2010 Ford Focus RS presents a unique challenge.
While more cash and reputation points reward first place wins, the game's level of difficulty is such that you can complete events and advance your career without having to maintain a perfect racing line.
Computer-controlled drivers are aggressive enough to put up a challenge, but never to the point of frustration.
The same can't be said of multiplayer, where live competition can often be exasperating. A standard-setting 16-player online mode via Game Center infuses Real Racing 2 with immense value, not to discount the local support for up to eight players using Bluetooth or wi-fi.
Leaderboards provide rankings for each track, as well as an overall category to encourage competition and spur rivalries. More could be done to flesh out the multiplayer experience, though. A multiplayer profile with named ranks and awards would add depth and provide additional motivation to play online.
Incorporating more options for the match host would be nice, too. Currently you can set the track and number of laps, but the ability to restrict the type of car allowed and expanding beyond circuit races to include elimination events would be great.
When it comes to the single-player game, absolutely nothing is lacking. Events are organised into five increasingly difficult divisions, each with its own requirements. For instance, some head-to-head races require winning a cup or nailing a time trial lap. A few tournaments come with an entry fee. Many events require a vehicle with a certain performance rating.
Another area in which Firemint has successfully balanced accessibility with depth is in vehicle tuning. Cash winnings can be used to buy new cars and upgrades, which are handled as performance packages. Purchasing a package enhances a vehicle's acceleration, top speed, or handling rating without the need to tinker with individual parts.
It's an elegant system that avoids the need for advanced car knowledge, yet provides depth through customisation. You can even issue new paint jobs to your rides, although it's annoying that you're made to spend cash winnings to do so - consider it the game's one point of irritation.
Firemint delivers on a gamer's wish list of features from damaging modelling to performance tuning to online multiplayer and the result is a sophisticated, fun racer.
There's no doubt about it, Real Racing 2 is a phenomenal game from a fabulous development studio.
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